Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!

For those of you that don't know me, I am an atheist.
(Please don't run away!)

I've been this way for as long as I can remember. Like many people are influenced into Christianity by their family, surely I was influenced into non-belief by mine. Of course, they gave me the freedom to attend church and develop spiritually, and I tried. But, those experiences only pushed me further into atheism.

When I was in middle school, a good friend invited me to a church lock-in. The name alone sounds terrifyingly like a grounding by your parents, but really, I had no idea into what I had gotten myself.

Fright Fest 1999.

Children were breaking down, their arms lifted up towards the spit-balled ceiling, faces beet red and stained with tears, begging for forgiveness. Think Jesus Camp. And I was effing scared. And I didn't know for what I had to be sorry.

We joined hands in a circle and the preacher asked, "Have you been saved?", like it was a threat. I thought to myself, "Saved? Saved from what?" He went on to explain, fire and brimstone, the sins of men, yadda yadda, blah blah. The preacher encouraged everyone who had been saved to leave the circle. I froze, too scared to leave the circle, too afraid to be caught in a lie.
That night, I was saved.

And I haven't gone back.

I realize that this doesn't happen everywhere. Although, nowadays, my reasons for being a non-believer/anti-religion are based on more than an emotional reaction. They're based on science, rationality, and a human rights perspective.

So, I recently decided I was going to read the Bible, just for fun.
Say what? What jew say, girl?

Yup, lately I've been studyin' good ol' Genesis. You know, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, the Tower of Babel, all of the classics!

For those of you who find the Bible to be as dry and repetitive as I do, I would recommend reading Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! by Jonathan Goldstein in conjunction, as I am. Pure hilarity!

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the Goldstein's retelling of the classics listed above. If you don't know these Bible stories, it won't be as funny. Each title is a link to the story's Wiki page, if you're interested.

Adam and Eve

Looking down at Adam, God must have felt a bit weird about the whole thing. It must have been something like eating at a cafeteria table all by yourself when a stranger suddenly sits down opposite of you, but it is a stranger you have created, and he is eating macaroni salad that you have also created, and you have been sitting at the table all by yourself for over a hundred billion years; and yet still, you have nothing to talk about (p. 13-14).

Cain and Abel

Back in those first days, things changed very quickly. A new person being born meant there was a giant spike in the population. For Cain, it made the planet feel lopsided. He watched Eve bounce the newborn [Abel] in her lap and as she cooed it, he felt the Earth's gravity tilt in their direction. It pulled at the insides of his stomach and made him seasick (p. 29).

Noah and the Ark

From what Ham had heard about God, He was a lot like his father [Noah]--tough, stubborn, and prone to yelling right in your face for pretty much no reason. A flood didn't seem that out of the question, and God would have chosen his father because his father felt just like He did: he hated his kids and was to teach them the meaning of righteousness by killing them dead. If there was going to be someone God was going to get in touch with, to Ham, Noah seemed like an obvious choice (p. 54).

The Tower of Babel

"Ut-whay e-thay ell-hay is-way oing-gay on-way?" he cried. It was as though there was a hand in his mouth, bending and curving his tongue against his will. For a long while, none of the men dared speak. For Mibzar, it was the first time in his life that his mouth felt like an enemy. The men all stood staring at one another, not knowing what to do. Finally, Mibzar broke the silence. Looking into the heavens, he said in a very quiet voice, "Od-Gay, ou-yay in-way." (p. 76-77)

If you would prefer to hear Adam and Eve read by the author, Jonathan Goldstein, listen to this episode of This American Life called Starting from Scratch.

What a joy!



Ganymede Girl said...

Great post, I am an atheist too. I wasn't raised by atheist parents but they were really into spirituality and "woo" things like siddha yoga and tai chi. It's funny that having hippie-like parents into spirituality resulted in my brothers and I gravitating towards science, logic, and critical thinking hahaha. I guess it's a natural sort of rebellion that happens often.

That's scary that you were in a Jesus-camp-like situation! When my boyfriend was a kid he went to bible camp by accident because his friend was going to camp and was very excited about it so of course he wanted to go too. When he was there he was just stuck reading from the bible and he had a terrible time hahaa. I haven't actually read the bible, I'm not sure if I could even get through it if I tried, but these Goldstein quotes are still really funny!


Amy T Schubert said...

You might enjoy the movie "The Invention of Lying"

Also, I have a theory about the Bible. That it should be read as literature/history regardless of religious belief. I think it's important to read it even just so you know the stories. So much of Western culture is informed by and influenced by biblical stories/principles/allusions/etc that knowing them helps. Just like the way Shakespeare is required reading for any English major - because of his influence on everything that came after.

Anonymous said...

Greetings fellow atheist! I'll definitely check out that book, because I made it like 8 pages into Genesis and could go no further. It's amazing how many biblical references there are all around us though...and I like knowing things.